▲ Photo of Paik Da Huim. Provided by joongang.co.kr
About Paik Da Huim Paik is the founder and current Editorin-Chief of Axt, a bimonthly literary magazine. First issued in July of 2015, Axt consists of book reviews, essays, and interviews about literature in general. All of the texts are written by novelists, translators, or editors, not critics. It is supplied at an unbelievably low price and still maintains the best content quality. It became very successful, with thousands of copies sold every issue. Axt’s popularity is unprecedented in the industry of specialized magazines.
“Ein Buch muß die Axt sein fur das gefrorene Meer in uns—a book should be an ax that shatters the frozen sea within us,” the line appears in Metamorphosis (1915), a novel written by German writer Franz Kafka. The name Axt was inspired by this phrase, wishing that the magazine could help readers widen their horizon, like an ax that breaks the ice. Magazines like Axt are created under the direction of the Editor-in-Chief, who is responsible for everything, from the magazine’s overall message to the minute details. The Editor-in-Chief of Axt, Paik Da Huim, shared his experience as a magazine editor and provided insight about the future of literary magazine and more broadly, literature.
Tell us more about Axt . What is the direction or the motto?
Axt is a literature magazine that specializes in literature, mostly novels. Axt strives to become a reader-oriented magazine that an average reader, a consumer of the text can enjoy, not just the professionals or people in the literature scene. Also, I wish that Axt can become a bridge to make literature more approachable and friendly.
What are the characteristics that make Axt exceptional compared to other literary magazines?
First and foremost, it is cheap. It is only 2900 won. There are also a lot of photos. While the existing literary magazines were designed like a book, Axt looks like a magazine. Simply put, it is very commercial. I think this is the biggest difference.
What do you have to do as the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine?
I contact and arrange the contributors for the magazine, decide the cover stories and features, and supervise the process of designing, production, and editing. I do almost everything that needs to be done to make a magazine. It is not an easy job.
What made you decide that you wanted to start a new literary magazine?
I wanted to make a fun literature magazine that is unique and different. Luckily, the idea resonated with the head of Ginko Publishers and I started gathering partners to start the project. I was just fond of literature and I wanted to share my fondness with other people.
What do you think is the most important attitude that an editor should have?
I think that the Editor-in-Chief should have good directing ability and a wide perspective that can see the forest, not the trees. I think a single thought or a single viewpoint is very dangerous. I am also concerned with balance in the magazine. The balance between texts, between image and text, the overall flow and rhythm is what I am thinking about the most.
How would you wish to make a change in the world with Axt?
I want to ask the question back to the readers. Can a magazine change the world? If Axt can change the world, I wish that more people would read and love Korean literature.
With Song-In Books, the second largest wholesale dealer of books, being declared bankrupt, there are concerns about the future of literature and the prospect of the publishing industry. What do you think of the current situation and what do you predict for the future of literary magazines?
Well, I do not think about the future that often to be frank. I know that literary magazines will not disappear, so I do not feel anxious about the future too much. I think that literary magazines cannot disappear as long as there is literature. I believe the future of literary magazines goes hand in hand with the future of literature.
New media are emerging and the world is full of text. What do you think is the role of specialized magazines like Axt in current society?
There is a realm that requires an analogue way of thinking, such as literature. But I do admit that we cannot fill literature with analogue imagination or ideas. There should be a balance between digital and analogue. A literary magazine should acutely interpret the professional area of literature and play with it. Making literature weigh less and become more accessible and enjoyable, that is the role of Axt.
What advice do you have for the students who wish to pursue a career in the magazine or the publishing industry?
I want to advise them to read, not too many, and not too few books. This may sound a little confusing. I want to tell the students that if you are interested in magazines or publishing, you should not put all your energy in this single area. A wide variety of experience, especially artistic experience would be better. I believe it is important to have an objective distance from this whole industry.
With its fresh content and design, Axt became a magazine that opened a new era in the literary magazine industry. It is young, approachable, and interesting. More and more people are picking up Axt and diving into the world of literature. Paik, the Editor-in-Chief of Axt, questioned whether a magazine can change the world. However, literature is one of the oldest, bravest, and truest ways of expressing a person’s thoughts and emotions. If literature and people who love literature cannot make a change, there will only be very few left who can and will. The world of magazines and books may not be the most lucrative field, but it is surely an interesting and influential one, that is worth being a part of.